[Paleopsych] NYT: M.B.A. Students Bypassing Wall Street for a Summer in India
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Fri Aug 12 16:04:57 UTC 2005
M.B.A. Students Bypassing Wall Street for a Summer in India
By SARITHA RAI
BANGALORE, India, Aug. 9 - This summer, Omar Maldonado and Erik
Simonsen, both students at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at
New York University, did something different.
Bypassing internship opportunities on Wall Street, just a subway ride
away from their Greenwich Village campus, they went to India to spend
the summer at an outsourcing company in Gurgaon, a suburb of New
"The India opportunity grabbed me," said Mr. Maldonado, a Boston
native whose family is from the Dominican Republic. "I wanted to get a
global feel for investment banking and not just a Wall Street
He and Mr. Simonsen, both 27, are spending three months at Copal
Partners, an outsourcing firm with 100 analysts. It produces merger
and acquisition pitch books and provides equity and credit analysis
and other research to global banks and consultant groups, including
those on Wall Street.
Mr. Maldonado and Mr. Simonsen, of Riverside, Calif., are part of a
virtual invasion of India by American students. Graduate students from
top schools in the United States, most from master of business
administration programs, are vying for internships at India's biggest
private companies. For many, outsourcing companies are the
destinations of choice.
India is not just a line on an American student's résumé, said Kiran
Karnik, president of the outsourcing industry trade body, Nasscom,
"but also culturally fulfilling." Many students travel while in India,
giving them a view of the country and its long history, he said.
Nasscom is now trying to track the ever-increasing numbers of foreign
interns. Many are in India to study globalization firsthand, Mr.
Karnik said; that is often not possible in China because, unlike
India, English is not widely spoken there.
Mr. Karnik said he had met more than a dozen interns from the Harvard
Business School who were spending this summer in India. "I expect a
bigger horde of students to arrive next year because the ones here
said they had a great time and will go home to talk about it," he
Elsewhere, too, the trend is on the rise. Four students from Fuqua
School of Business at Duke University are interning in India, compared
with only one last year and none in 2003. Of this year's interns,
three are at Infosys Technologies, an outsourcing company in
Bangalore, and the fourth is in Chennai at GlobalGiving, an
organization based in Bethesda, Md., that helps support social,
economic and environmental projects around the world.
At Georgetown University, Stanley D. Nollen, a professor of
international business at the Robert Emmett McDonough School of
Business, said India was of growing interest to students.
"No longer is India thought of as a land of snake charmers and bride
burnings," he said. "Now India means the world's best software
services, and increasingly, pharmaceuticals and auto parts."
Professor Nollen directs the school's programs for M.B.A. students in
India, which include "residencies" - academic courses that are
centered on consulting projects for companies operating in India. A
group of 49 students arrived this month and went to companies like
Philips India Software and MindTree Consulting, both in Bangalore; the
motorcycle-making unit of Eicher in Chennai; and the ICICI Bank in
India can be a jolt to a first-time American visitor. In Gurgaon, a
small town despite its tall office complexes and shiny new malls, Mr.
Maldonado and Mr. Simonsen share an apartment where the power fails
several times a day. Temperatures are regularly above 100 degrees
Fahrenheit in the summer.
The two men said they came prepared to find inadequate infrastructure,
but were not prepared for the daily frustrations of Gurgaon. There is
no mass transportation system, and shopping, even for something as
basic as an umbrella, can take hours. They rumble to work in an auto
rickshaw - a motorized three-wheeler that seats two and is a
ubiquitous form of transport in Indian cities.
But the sophistication of the work being done in Copal's Gurgaon
office contrasts with the chaotic city outside. Mr. Simonsen said he
was amazed. "I came expecting to see number-crunching and spreadsheet
type of work; I didn't expect American banks to farm out intricate
analytics," he said. The two students are working on a project that
analyzes investment opportunities for clients across 23 countries.
Infosys Technologies, the country's second-largest outsourcing firm
after Tata Consultancy Services, discovered how popular India had
become as an internship destination for Americans when the company
began recruiting: for the 40 intern spots at its Bangalore
headquarters, the company received 9,000 applications. Only those with
a cumulative grade-point average of 3.6 or more made it to a short
list, and then they were put through two rounds of interviews.
The final 40, who cut a wide academic swathe from engineering schools
like M.I.T. and Carnegie Mellon to business schools like Stanford,
Wharton and Kellogg, have since arrived on campus for average stays of
three months. The interns work in areas from marketing to technology.
They live in a 500-room hotel complex on Infosys's expansive campus in
the suburbs of Bangalore, exchanging coupons for meals at the food
court and riding the company bus downtown to decompress at the many
pubs and bars.
Among the Infosys interns is Caton Burwell, 28, from the Stanford
Graduate School of Business. "India has come to symbolize
globalization and I wanted to participate in the workings of the
global economy," he said. "Besides, it would look great on my résumé."
Mr. Burwell said that, since arriving in India, he had developed a
better grasp of the workings of the global economy and the logic
behind the choices companies and countries make. "Being here is a
powerful experience; it is impossible not to think differently," he
Also, his attitude toward outsourcing has changed since meeting Indian
employees, who he said work very hard and care a great deal about the
quality of their work. "To come here, meet these people, and to return
home and turn your back on outsourcing is hard," he said.
Jeffrey Anders, 29, from the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T., is
similarly stirred. Mr. Anders is halfway through his internship at the
business process outsourcing division of Hewlett-Packard India in
"I can't help but feel that I am witnessing the creation of a new
global economic order, a new reality that most people back home don't
realize is coming," said Mr. Anders.
After a meeting with the recruiting head of Hewlett-Packard India's
back-office unit at a conference at M.I.T., Mr. Anders came to India
to help build a group of Indian economists and statisticians to
perform complex analytics and predictive modeling for Western
multinationals. "These highly educated and qualified people are not
stopping at call centers and back-office work," he said. "They are
getting ready to compete for every job."
Meanwhile, Indian companies are looking at summer internships as a way
of building a diverse work culture.
"Bringing investment bankers here provides our Indian team a
perspective and context of Wall Street," said Joel Perlman, co-founder
of Copal Partners, a company based in London that has four employees
each in New York and London and another 100 or so in India.
Other companies, and even the schools themselves, are looking at
internships as a step toward attracting bright young Americans to work
in India. Infosys, for instance, hired Joshua Bornstein, a former
intern from Claremont McKenna College in California, nearly two years
ago as its first American employee based in India.
"In this increasingly global economy, we would expect to see India
become an even greater source of employment for our students," Sheryle
Dirks, director of the Career Management Center at Fuqua, said.
Mr. Anders, from the Sloan school, works in a new Hewlett-Packard
building, where he sometimes works out at the gym in the basement and
eats at the cafeteria on the terrace. The employees work in open
cubicles, similar to those in offices anywhere in the West. His team
consists of four Indians, all with M.B.A.'s like him, and they operate
globally, collaborating with teams in California and elsewhere.
Interns like Mr. Anders are getting a close view of social changes
that are happening in India. Outsourcing has created thousands of
better-paying jobs and spawned communities of young people who can
afford cars, apartments and iPods.
"I thought the stipend was the down side," said Mr. Anders, "but
coming here is a priceless experience."
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